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liang7079

Suggestion for boxwood fitting brands

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Hello all and happy holidays:

 

 

   I am thinking of getting better pegs for my violin and would like suggestions/inputs on what might be considered really good quality/best boxwood fittings for their durability, workmanship and looks (pegs, tailpieces and end buttons)

So far I have found these to be quite well reputed:

 

- Bois d'harmonie

- Gerald Crowson (Mr. Crowson has closed his production until further notice unfortunately)

- Eric Meyer (Mr. Meyer usually makes them out of Mountain Mahogany which kinda look like old stained boxwood)

- Otto Tempel

- Roger Hansell

 

Would be interesting to hear which brand/maker luthiers like to use and would suggest. Thanks!

 

PS: Do Mountain Mahogany fittings provide a different sound to the to violin as they are supposedly harder than boxwood? 

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All that you list are great. Why do you want boxwood?It is the most expensive and yet worst peg material.  I never use it unless specifically asked for. . Pegs will not influence sound beyond their ability to tune. Good quality rosewood tune the best..

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All that you list are great. Why do you want boxwood?It is the most expensive and yet worst peg material.  I never use it unless specifically asked for. . Pegs will not influence sound beyond their ability to tune. Good quality rosewood tune the best..

So I have wondered about the beginnings of box wood for use as fittings, as I also think it is the worst.

Maybe it was used to save the pegbox holes from premature wear, as the box wood pegs are so soft.

Maybe it was easier to fit and more forgiving as to not tear up the hole if it was not perfectly round?

Availability? Does it grow on every street corner in London,, next to the Box Wood Tavern?

 

Some where and for some reason some one liked it the best,,,,,,

Why?

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Agree with Melvin, and would add that an ebony peg will last longer than box. 

Evan, I think box has always been prized for turning, it's very smooth. 
Old tool handles, etc.

A properly fitted ebony peg with some hill compound will turn just as well. 
Rosewood is said to be even better because it contains natural lubricating oils. 
Not sure if that's much of a factor though. 

Boxwood quality is different though, top quality air dried European box is not cheap. 
Chin rests and tailpieces made with 'exotic' flamed boxwood are sometimes cheaper and pretty. 

Meyer is good with quality, but if you have 13 instruments to fit up...deep pockets.
Tempel (via Dick) has been replaced with a similar outfit, slightly cheaper and probably fine.



 

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Boxwood is better for preserving your pegbox given its softness. It is also 'period-appropriate' for some instruments. All of my 18th century English instruments are fitted up with boxwood and some still have their original boxwood pegs after 230 or so years, which says something for the material... ps. I get my boxwood pegs either from Roger Hansell or Bridgewood & Neitzert.

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I think the boxwood I see in modern pegs is very different to the wood in the old English pegs. The old stuff is from a little tree that grows so slowly here. The wood is very hard indeed , almost too hard for pegs , and it moves with the weather like ebony.

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I think the boxwood I see in modern pegs is very different to the wood in the old English pegs. The old stuff is from a little tree that grows so slowly here. The wood is very hard indeed , almost too hard for pegs , and it moves with the weather like ebony.

 

Very true. Printing blocks made from proper English boxwood seem quite a bit harder and hold detail better. 

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PS: Do Mountain Mahogany fittings provide a different sound to the to violin as they are supposedly harder than boxwood?

Although I have also not noticed sound differences in pegs, the other fittings will certainly have an effect on the sound of the violin, although not predictably.

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I have boxwood fittings on my violas.  I don't understand the appeal frankly...I find boxwood the least attractive option. :mellow:

 

I love the look of snakewood :wub:...and I was looking into snakewood fittings...but it was complicated.  Hard to find good quality ones I suppose...

 

I have treated myself though...I have ordered a large custom made bassoon reed storage case, and a small 3 reed case (for daily use, rehearsals, etc.) made out of snakewood.  They are in the mail!  :)

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Funny, I don't consider box to be of low density at all.

I have some pieces from France , and from my vegetable garden hedge which I split ten years ago. I must try to compare them.

The box hedge was very common once. But box has been struck by a disease in recent years. Charles, the prince of Wales in England has been working to save it from further loss.

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This might be part of the confusion about boxwood density.

http://www.wood-database.com/lumber-identification/hardwoods/boxwood/

http://www.wood-database.com/lumber-identification/hardwoods/castelo-boxwood/

European Boxwood has a Janka rating of 2,840 lbf

Castelo Boxwood has a Janka rating of 1,810 lbf

Ebony is usually around 3,000, although the East Indian Ebony is around 2,400.  

 

Mountain Mahogany is rated similar to ebony, but it's shrinkage is far less.  Haven't tried it, but it sounds like it would be great for pegs.

http://www.wood-database.com/lumber-identification/hardwoods/mountain-mahogany/

 

I've been curious how consistent some of these specs are within a species.  Some species don't have shrinkage ratings that I can find, but it seems like it would be useful to have a Tangential/Radial ratio as close to 1 as possible.  Gaboon Ebony is lower than many other rated woods, but the overall shrinkage is somewhat high.  I interpret that to mean that there would be more variation in the taper and it would be less elliptical as it shifts compared with a lower overall shrinkage, but higher T/R ratio.

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I wonder what makes people think that boxwood is soft and low density? European boxwood was used to house scientific instruments for the reason that once it is seasoned it is stable. It is very dense, the specific weigth is only sligtly lower than ebony.

The reason it is kinder on the pegbox is because it has no grain lines to grind the peghole.

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Wolfjk - what you say makes perfect sense. I had always heard that boxwood was kinder to the pegbox and assumed it was because it was softer than ebony, but a lack of grain lines explains that better. Regardless, as European Boxwood seems to be less destructive and nearly as dense as ebony, there is every reason to favour it as a peg material. Aesthetically, especially if you look at old English boxwood pegs (and premium modern reproductions), it also has a certain elegance.

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I'm very interested in Meyer's mountain mahogany. I've always been a fan of Rosewood's look and have considered using it on my first instrument, but I'm a long way off from fitting pegs! Plenty of time to decide. Back on topic, boxwood fittings seem to bring a little Baroque charm to a set-up. I hope you find a nice set for your fiddle!

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Wolfjk - what you say makes perfect sense. I had always heard that boxwood was kinder to the pegbox and assumed it was because it was softer than ebony, but a lack of grain lines explains that better. Regardless, as European Boxwood seems to be less destructive and nearly as dense as ebony, there is every reason to favour it as a peg material. Aesthetically, especially if you look at old English boxwood pegs (and premium modern reproductions), it also has a certain elegance.

Regarding hardness and density; there are two species of European boxwood the big leaf variety grows faster and not so heavy as the small leaved one.post-5577-0-71030700-1451297943_thumb.jpg

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The links that Lurker cited are consistent with my experience working these woods on the lathe. There was a time that castelo Boxwood was the main replacement on the market for European box (semperverins) but with the relocation of much of the low end fittings manufacture traveling Eastward there are several woods using that dubious label. It is rather crazy to use the common names as opposed to the Latin, it seems to me. Rosewood has so many sub species the word is meaningless. Rosewood is not in the rose family whereas mountain mahogany actually IS. Mountain mahogany is not a mahogany (swietenia) at all, but got the name from cowboys because it was hard and brown. A poster at MN recently bought some pegs sold as mountain mahogany which were real mahogany which is not a very hard wood at all as pegs go. Someone likewise sent me some persimmon for pegs, since it is in the ebony family, that made some sense but it was not hard enough for peg IMO. Anyway you get the picture.

 

Buxus sempervirens was historically often used for pegs since it was the hardest wood locally available, turned beautifully and could be stained to match varnished woods. Plum, and giugulo were fruit woods that were employed untill the colonial expansions of 17th century brought more exotic woods to the market. Ebony from Africa was available but I imagine it was reserved for Medicis and other royalty. Andrtew dipper mentions a wood called bog oak. The pegs in the Ceruti collection in Cremona are mostly giugulo which originated in the East and were brought to Italy by the Venetians. There is also as I remember a lute like peg that is half blackened box. The Andrea Guarneri viola  in the Shrine to Music has some pegs of a wood that may be original the wood of which I don't recognize. The Bros. Amati piccolo in the same location has boxwood pegs that if not original are early replacements, these are unstained.

 

There has always been some confusion about English boxwood and that from Turkey and southern France and Macedonia. The box from these more southerly climes grows as small trees as opposed to hedge-like growth seen in England. I had a wonderful day traipsing around southern France with fellow peg maker Eric Fouille looking at boxwood trees and climbing waterfalls. I know that there is mention in traveler's journals of supposedly huge boxwood logs being carried around the Cape from Greece to England. I have a piece of peg wood from the Hills workshop that is clearly labelled "Salonica", I asked Roger Hargrave about all this and his theory is that the use of English box as spindles and such in the textile industry wiped out the slow growing wood in England and  other sources needed to be developed. I'd love to travel around England looking at trees and sampling local ciders. Wonder if I can write a grant for that.

 

I did some weight studies many years ago because the internet wasn't available (at least to a Luddite) and there was so much misinformation about wood species and their attributes. I was asked to write an articlel in the Strad about the various woods for fittings and their suitability. I basically chickened out since I believe now that peg woods are very like sports teams and acquire fans to the point protective loyalty and fervor. The CITIES situation also made this endeavor problematic. If you use a scale from 1 to 82, the later being the hardest peg (lignum vitae), buxus sempervirens  would fall about at 51.  Brazilian rosewood was not as heavy and about 49. The quality that makes rosewood fans (and there are many) is the resin content not the hardness. Perhaps this quality makes them less necessary to push in the pegbox and go out of round and collared. Blackwood is also a dalbergia (rosewood) but is much harder at about 80, the same or more than ebony, though it depends on the samples. Pernambuco was about 53 . I can't recall where snakewood fit in but it is somewhere in the top. Mountain mahogany was a sinker in water and weighed at about 55 on this scale.

 

Since I don't have to do any of the set up or maintenance on the fiddles that wear my pegs, I rely on reports and responses to rate woods for their function. I am known for making mountain mahogany and started working this wood because of the demand for them and the relative difficulty in finding them on the market. I believe it is a wonderful wood for tuning pegs. I absolutely hate nitric acid so if I make boxwood pegs I don't stain them. That fact and the nature of the M.m. wood itself leads me onward. It is true that cutting, curing, and finding suitable pieces is very problematic and the tree is a crazy convoluted thing, making it mostly unsuitable for mass production and milling. Since it is not stained there are several variation in color apparent even in the same cut off the log. These vary from the gold brown color in my avatar to a dark chocolate and a mix of both. Over years and use the pegs can become a red brown chestnut color. Here is a dark sample.

 

 

 

 

. OK that is enough, I need to get to work . I will include a talk on mountain mahogany that some of you might wade through from a VSA convention. It was written when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth and who knows if I still agree with what I wrote, but it gives a history of how a new wood wormed it's way into a staid old trade like ours.

post-3813-0-27943300-1451415335_thumb.jpg

Mountmahog.doc

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Eric, thank you very much for the great post and the wonderful paper as well. :)  

 

FWIW, I use Brazilian rosewood fittings with strikingly flamed instruments because of how the "pinstriping" in the fittings and in the ribs/neck/scroll visually echo each other.

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Yes, thank you Eric! Very informative indeed. On a slightly related note, my neighbor just cut down a splendid old Hawthorne, which I think is also Rosaceae and quite hard. The wood is just lying there, abandoned by the arborist. Would anyone have any use for it?

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Thanks Eric.  Good stuff.  I wasn't able to open the file, though.  I'll try on the PC at work tomorrow, maybe it's just not friendly with my mac version of Word.

 

About the collared effect, and 'out of round'.  I've generally attributed the collared effect to pressure as you noted, but I think the 'out of round' peg is the result of disproportionate shrinkage.  That's why I noted the tangential to radial shrinkage ratios earlier.  If pegs shrink by percentage, then the fat end of the peg shrinks more than the skinny end, which causes a slight change to the taper.  If it shrinks more tangentially than radially, then it causes it will not stay round.  The pegbox will have minimal shrinkage longitudinally, so it will not stay round either.  

 

I've been interested in FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified wood, particularly the ebony.  While ebony doesn't lend itself to sustainable harvesting, african blackwood is sustainably harvested.  I haven't been able to find any fitting suppliers, though.  I suspect that there may be an advantage to blackwood because it's harder than most ebony, has a much lower shrinkage rate than ebony, and has a slightly lower tangential to radial shrinkage ratio than mountain mahogany.  

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Don't disagree, but wondering who did the shrinkage tests on the mountain mahogany. Blackwood has been used for many years by Selmer and others for clarinet bells so I'm sure that wood is well documented, When I was talking to the mountain mahogany experts (there were exactly two) no such test had been done. There are many studies on it by taxonomists funded by the Forest Service as a plant since it is an important evergreen deciduous tree and a source of winter food for deer.  However no one that i talked to even knew (other than that use  and for great firewood) that the wood had any commercial possibilities at all. It is considered a non commercial lumber. I guess someone once used it for roller skate wheels.  Also the Wood Database people just referred to cercocarpus. There are three species of m.m. and they are different in their wood characteristics. Wonder if they tested them all, or which one they tested and referred to.

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